Architecture News – Video Library Upgrade

Hello viewers,

Today I have a little housekeeping issue to report. The Flash multi-media plug and all of the malware associated with it has become too huge a vulnerability to ignore any longer and Microsoft’s delayed release of the current Flash plug-in built-in to their browsers (IE & Edge) convinced me to migrate all of my video files embedded in earlier posts to the new HTML5 standard. All videos that were created in the Flash format have now been converted to HTML5 so all browsers should be able to access the media files without prompts to download Flash or having to worry about virus or malware attack associated with the Flash plugin. I predict that Flash will likely be dead by the end of 2017, so now seemed like a good time to move to the new standard while file conversion tools were still available. Hope you find this useful and you can feel safer browsing knowing that A Point In Design in now HTML5 video compliant and no longer a Flash supported site.

Blog Author

PS If you happen to need the latest Flash plug-in release for IE/Edge browsers (released today by Microsoft) you can find them here or the update can be downloaded & installed via Windows Update (if it feels like working).

Archtitecture News – Cool Videos from the World of Architecture

Searching around the web I came across several videos that feature exciting and new technologies that will make Architecture even more dynamic and mesmerizing.

The first video is of a 3D printed room created by the designers at Digital Grotesque. Using a randomized computer algorithm, the computer program generated these highly detailed chunks of plaster containing millions of edges and corners. These large chunks of highly detailed plaster were created in a 3D printer and then stacked to create an enclosed space. The amount of detail is mind blowing really. There are over 260 million facets to this room.

Click the link to learn more about the Digital Grotesque Project.

Video #2 is a trailer for a new documentary on the powers of digital laser scanning technology and how it has been used to learn how ancient buildings were constructed such as the Pyramids of Giza or the rock cut temple at Petra, Jordan. I presume that this documentary will be featured on PBS some time in the near future.

Architecture News – The Platypus wins for Tokyo

The Platypus. No really.

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The actual headline announced today was the IOC’s naming of Tokyo as the host city for the 2020 Olympic Games. The 2020 Tokyo games feature a stadium designed by Zaha Hadid architects. Of the 3 stadium proposals, the Hadid stadium was by far the most innovative, ambitious and undoubtedly the most expensive of the three. Photos of the other 2 stadiums associated with their host cities are shown below.

Olympic Stadium by Zaha Hadid Architects
Olympic Stadium by Zaha Hadid Architects

The other 2 cities in the running were Madrid, Spain and Istanbul, Turkey.

Istanbul Stadium
Istanbul Stadium

Madrid Stadium
Madrid Stadium

You may ask how does the platypus come into play here? Take a look at the skull of a platypus and compare it with Hadid’s winning stadium design. (Photos of the platypus taken from Emily Graslie’s Youtube channel the Brain Scoop.)

Platypus Skull
Platypus Skull

They are scarily identical. Here is the stadium again for comparison.

Olympic Stadium by Zaha Hadid Architects
Olympic Stadium by Zaha Hadid Architects

I wonder if Hadid studied Natural History as an elective at Uni or if she ever visited the Chicago Field Museum’s collection of platypus specimens (I would tend to doubt it) but the similarities between the stadium and the animal make an interesting point of how nature or the freaks of nature like the platypus can be used to inspire great design.

If you are interested, I am including the original Brain Scoop video which highlights the platypus collection if you are interested in learning more about these creatures.

Architecture News – The Hyperloop Scheme

Initial details of the ultra-high speed transport project called ‘the Hyperloop’ were released yesterday (8/12/13) by businessman Elon Musk. Below are the initial sketches with an explanatory video describing the technology. I do wonder what architectural firm Musk partnered with to create the initial concepts sketches. The initial drawings bear the unmistakable hallmarks of an architect’s hand, from the bubble people to the shading techniques and the use of Prismacolor markers.

The Hyperloop transport system mimics the principles of vacuum tube technology using low pressure, fans and magnetic levitation that work in consort to propel a capsule through the tube system. The system is capable of reaching speeds in the 700 mph range, many times faster than the fastest high speed rail system available today. If the scheme ever gets beyond the concept phase, the first built Hyperloop would link Los Angeles to San Fransisco reducing travel time to 30 minutes compared to the roughly 90 minute plus aircraft transit times available today.

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Movie

This SCIShow Episode explores the Science behind the Hyperloop.

Stay tuned readers for future stories on this exciting technology.

Architecture News – American Folk Art Museum to be Demolished

American Folk Art Museum

In a controversial decision made by the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) board, the American Folk Art Museum which resides on an abutting parcel of land to the MOMA museum in New York City will be demolished to make room for the MOMA museum’s future expansion plans. The great recession put the Folk Art museum into bankruptcy and its trustees were forced to sell their building and its land to meet its mortgage payments. The Museum of Modern Art bought the property in 2011 and now its fate is in their hands. The decision to demolish is creating waves for several reasons: one the building is quite new, it was completed in 2001 and secondly the building’s design won great accolades, it was declared the “Best New building in the world for 2001” so its demolition feels grossly unjustified. The Folk Art Museum was designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien and fit into a narrow 40ft by 100 ft footprint. The building has unusual bronze/copper clad exterior panels which give it a sculptural feel. Below are photos of the museum as it stands today. Tell us your opinion, should this jewel-box museum be saved or was the decision to scrap it the right one? If you feel strongly that it should be saved, a petition has been organized to save the Folk Art building from its fate. The link to the petition is below.

Image Gallery

Sign the Petition

Architecture News – Apple Campus Proving to Be Very Expensive

Design work continues on Steve Jobs’s legacy project, the new corporate headquarters for Apple Computer designed by Foster & Partners. New costs estimates for the complex are coming in at $5 billion dollars. The complex located in Cupertino City, California includes a doughnut shaped main building with 6 additional buildings for parking, fitness facilities, auditorium facilities, and a heating plant all surrounded by park space. Below are some renderings of the project provided by Foster & Partners. Construction is planned to commence in June of this year.

Overview shot of building
Overview shot of building

Image Gallery

For more drawings of the complex check out this link

Architecture News – Winning design for 300sq ft apt announced

Building Elevation
Building Elevation

Several months ago I created a post about the contest being held in NYC for the micro-scale apartments. The jury reached its verdict and named the winner today. A team consisting of Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation and nARCHITECTS was selected as winner of the adAPT NYC competition. The winning entry uses a stacked module design to form a housing tower with a common ground floor space.

Photo gallery

Link to the full article at Archdaily’s website.

Architecture News – The best paint colors for 2013

Ultramarine Green

This is kind of a fluff piece, but if you are thinking of redoing a bedroom or a room in your house and could use some inspiration from paint chips this article will do the trick. Below are the top 10 paint colors as chosen by decorators from the Pantone paint catalog for the upcoming year.

The original article can be found here

Architecture News – NYC Design Competition for Affordable Apartments

Hello readers,

Although this is somewhat old news (the contest was announced back in July) I felt that the topic was important enough to warrant posting. The contest sponsored by NYC Dept of Housing Preservation and Development was to design an apartment complex which contained apartments that were no more than 300sqft in size. The small footprint would in theory keep costs low and make it affordable for young people trying to find a place to live in NYC. A photo of a sample layout is shown below. The submission deadline for the contest is Sept 14, 2012. For an idea on what a 300sq ft apartment feels like, check out this brief news clip.

While the idea of living in a 300 sq ft apartment is novel, I am not sure how I feel about this project or its goals. On the one hand, high density development is considerably more sustainable than living in the suburbs; however there are costs with being so close to your neighbor. The limited personal space in a city of millions can feel suffocating and the forced interaction with your closest neighbors can raise stress levels and anxiety in an already hectic city.

Another way of looking at this project is seeing it in terms of social control being exerted over the young and poor in the city. Architects through design control the way people live and move through their spaces. In a way this is more personally intrusive then any government mandate could ever be. Through the physical layout of the apartment you are dictating to someone how they make their morning or evening routines in their own homes. This is exerting a level of influence that peripheral issues such as taxation or regulation could never touch. With so much at stake, the onus on the architect to get it right becomes very high. Take something as small as the way a refrigerator door opens. If the door opens the wrong way, every time you use the appliance you will be irritated by having to step out of the way of the door. These little inconveniences compounded over months, combined with the stressful city life can make someone downright miserable over the long term. Thoughtful design makes life easier while poor design choices serve to annoy and make life all the more difficult.

Given the degree which you are affecting someone’s life by though this housing, the short timeline given to develop plans for this project seem grossly inappropriate. As a designer/architect you need the time to iterate to make the design as optimal as possible as well as attempting to consider every possible factor in a living environment. Even after all of that work, you are still going to miss things. There are unexpected outcomes in even the best planned developments. The absolute failures of urban housing projects for the poor in the past should serve as reminders to carefully evaluate the merits and pitfalls of the even smallest detail in the design. Do we really want to be short changing another generation with sub-standard housing?

In addition to the logistics and functionality of the apartments there are hundreds of social issues at play in housing. The final design will ultimately reflect the architect’s values and ideals for living more than the values of the young people living there. Is the architect an extrovert or an introvert? If introvert, he may value privacy and solitude in the design more. If extrovert, he may opt to create more common spaces for people to gather in, and by doing that how will the ambient noise from those common spaces affect those that may want more privacy? What is the architect’s opinion on technology? Should we be attempting to get people out of their phones and conversing with their neighbors or should this housing act as a cocoon where one can escape away from the trials and interactions of the city? Also the issue of park space is another issue to consider. When you consider all of these separate topics and how they interact with one another designing a suitable building becomes an ominous task. That is why so few architects succeed at large scale central planning, there are just too many variables.

One also has to ask if this project is really designed to help the young or just serve as an additional source of income for the rentier class that collects their bloated monthly rent checks from the city dwellers seeking accommodations within the city limits. Does this development scheme offer any type of equity to the young person living there?

If it doesn’t, a better solution would be to offer the apartments to young people by having them pay into a currency pool used to fund the building’s construction and maintenance using an alternate currency such as Bitcoin. By paying rent into a monetary system that is by nature deflationary rather than inflationary, the tenants’ purchasing power is preserved and equity is created rather than destroyed. The current rent system sends the tenants’ funds to an often unknown landlord’s pocketbook while the increasingly worthless US dollar erodes what little money the tenant might have left over after paying his rent.

Under the Bitcoin scheme, at the end of his/her stay in the building, he/she can sell their share in the apartment to the next occupant for a set fraction of the same number of Bitcoins that he initially payed to occupy the apartment. As each whole Bitcoin is worth more over time, equity and profit are created for the current and future tenants. That way they could walk away with some equity to buy a real home or property in the future.

Although this scheme will be affected by the fluctuations in the value of Bitcoin currency, (i.e. the more people who demand the currency, the more value each coin holds as the number of coins is limited to 21,000,000) recent trends seem to indicate that the currency is increasingly acting as a repository for value in the face of corrupt or collapsing governments. As public trust in the formal government erodes, more of the economy and people move from the formal to the informal sector of the economy.* There has been a direct correlation between the increasing price for Bitcoin and the unraveling of the economies of Greece/Europe in recent months. With most developed countries including the US facing default on sovereign debt and the unpopularity of austerity measures needed to remedy those debts, the poor are turning to outlets that will protect their savings from inflation or taxation.

So to conclude, it would seem that there are a lot of factors to consider when designing for this seemingly simple 300 sq ft apartment competition, from layout to financing.

* For further reading on the subject of formal vs informal sectors of the economy see Hernando de Soto’s The Other Path and The Mystery of Capital & Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West & fails Everywhere Else